Urchin-like structured carbon comprising carbon nanotubes grown on Fe catalyst-seeded mesoporous carbon have shown promising results as catalyst supports for use in direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs) and proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). The Fe catalyst is prepared on the mesoporous carbon by immersion process followed by a high temperature reduction. The growth of carbon nanotubes then progress, for a predetermined time, through the thermal decomposition of acetylene at 800 °C. The resulting structure, comprising intimately connected mesoporous carbon and carbon nanotubes, is shown to offer performance advantages as a catalytic support for DMFCs and PEMFCs. When the hot-pressing pressure is fixed 20 kg cm-2 to fabricate a membrane electrode assembly (MEA) with urchin-like carbon supports, the CNT growth time is found to be 60 min for a highest maximum power density in both DMFCs and PEMFCs. The maximum power densities are 43 and 79% higher than those with purely mesoporous carbon in DMFCs and PEMFCs, respectively. In a direct comparison with commercial E-TEK catalyst, the urchin-like catalyst shows higher maximum power densities, in DMFC and PEMFC, by approximately 17 and 31%, respectively.
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